Black (flustered?) faces pro-Obamacare protesters at GOP town hall

In reporting that “raw emotions are boiling over” in protests against Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare nationwide at town hall meetings, CNN cites examples of protests involving congressmen in Utah and Tennessee.  In the latter case, U.S. Rep. Diane Black (who chairs a House committee looking at Obamacare repeal and is eyeing a run for governor) was the focus — though three Republican state legislators were also on hand.

An excerpt from the Tennessee portion of the CNN report (followed by an excerpt from the local Murfreesboro newspaper):

And some 1,700 miles away in the town of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Black was met with roughly 100 protesters at a “Ask Your Reps” event hosted by the Middle Tennessee State University’s College Republicans.

Mike Carlson, a 32-year-old student from Antioch, Tennessee, said that as an overweight man, he depended on Obamacare to stay alive.

“I have to have coverage to make sure I don’t die. There are people now who have cancer that have that coverage, that have to have that coverage to make sure they don’t die,” Carlson said. “And you want to take away this coverage — and have nothing to replace it with! How can I trust you to do anything that’s in our interest at all?”

Jessi Bohon, a 35-year-old high school teacher who lives in Cookeville, Tennessee, was visibly emotional as she stood up and posed her question.

“As a Christian, my whole philosophy in life is pull up the unfortunate,” Bohon said, a comment that drew verbal affirmation from others in the room. “The individual mandate: that’s what it does. The healthy people pull up the sick.”

Bohon went on to ask how Congress could be OK with “punishing our sickest people” rather than trying to “fix what’s wrong with Obamacare,” the sweeping healthcare law that covers 20 million Americans.

Black responded that Obamacare’s individual mandate — which requires everyone to have health insurance or pay a penalty — still allowed millions, including many young and healthy people, to be without coverage.

“About 20 million people did actually come into the program who were uninsured,” Black said. “You don’t want to hurt one group of people to help the another. We can help both groups at the same time.”

Bohon shot back: “How many of those people were in states where they played a political game with people’s lives?”

Black appeared flustered, and declined to continue. “I’m going to pass this one,” she said.

…The same event hosted by MTSU’s College Republican last year was attended by around 30 to 40 people, according to organizers. On Thursday night, the room was quickly filled to capacity while dozens outside chanted: “Let us in! Let us in!”

Further, from the Daily News Journal:

Black spoke at the event with three Tennessee General Assembly Republicans: state Sen. Jim Tracy of Shelbyville, state Rep. Mike Sparks of Smyrna and state Rep. Bryan Terry of Murfreesboro. They spent most of their time talking about health care.

“We need to have more choice,”  said Black, adding that opening up the market is the way to do it. “Right now we have a pretty much a one-size fits all, and it’s costing too much money.”

Black said lawmakers will consider offering tax credits to help people find health insurance they like, is affordable and will provide for “your needs rather than what Washington says you need.”

“I believe that’s what people really want,” Black said.

Tracy said Congress should give the states more flexibility with Medicaid, such as when former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen proposed a $4 co-payment for those going to the Emergency Room for treatment.

“The federal government wouldn’t allow us to do that,” recalled Tracy, who boasted how Tennessee’s government has surpluses from economic growth through efficient services and tax cuts. “We want flexibility. We can do it better at the state level. We have proven we can do it better. Our statistics show we can do it better.”

Sparks talked about how challenging it’s been to bring people together to discuss health care.

“It’s like herding cats,” Sparks said. “We’ve got a problem. I see the culture change. I see the country change, and I have concerns.”

Terry, who is a physician, said he has had success in bringing opposite sides together, such as Planned Parenthood and the Tennessee Right to Life on a ultrasound bill that never got passed after the sponsor pulled the bill.

Terry also said he has concerns about Obamacare.

“The Affordable Care Act was a tax on the rich in health,”  Terry said.

When the event ended, (MTSU student Mike) Carlson complained that the GOP lawmakers dodged questions, offered platitudes and were “straight up lying” about young people not signing up for the Affordable Care Act.

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